With limited time, I have been trying to multi-task. Studying on the subway to work… picking up groceries after my weekend work-out… and even combining social activities with cooking. While still cooking the majority of my meals on the weekend, I have invited friends to come over and help cook. Cooking + friends = fun times! Leftovers are good for me, too! While I usually make 2 dishes and a dressing each week, I try to pare my menu down when friends are over. One dish only. Preferably a recipe I know tastes good.
This is another one of Rob’s Repeater Recipes. Whenever we see cauliflower on sale, this is what tugs at our tummies. Red lentils envelope chunks of cauliflower in this quick curry. Of course, what separates each curry is the specific spice blend and this uses Bangladesh’s signature spice mix: panch phoran (Bengali 5 spice mix). You might remember it from my Bengali Quinoa and Spinach Bowl with the simple combination of cumin, fennel, nigella, fenugreek and mustard seeds. For this version, I stole some cauliflower to make (Baked!) Lemon Cilantro Pakoras and swapped in additional zucchini.
I love it when Rob helps out in the kitchen, and he has really taken to sharing his Indian cooking tips with my friends. We’ve also made Dal Bhat and the Split Pea Dal with Ginger and Lime at other times, highlighting simple and tasty Indian home cooking. These are all lessons from Indian Cooking 101.. what will Indian Cooking 102 include?
Spring has sprung? Wishful thinking?
Rob and I took advantage of the glorious weather this weekend to ride our bikes for the first time this year.
Having my bike cleaned and tuned over the winter meant I had a sparkly bike to ride! Except I noticed my fender is broken, so I have to figure out whether I will fix that.
We used this as an opportunity to bike to our new favourite restaurant: Hot Beans. Turns out the shops and restos in Kensington Market are open for the long weekend, YA!
I don’t know why, but it took me a while to finally try out Hot Beans, a fast-food vegan resto with burritos, tacos and nachos… and my favourite: burrito bowls. Sounds possibly terrible, but it is vegan goodness in its glory. Filled with vegan staple goodness: beans, brown rice, salsa, lettuce, chili aoili and vegan cheese sauce with your main topping of choice. Ask about their special menu. Mix-and-match but you can basically pick from Ancho-spiced TVP, seitan, black beans, lentils and Rob’s favourite: BBQ jackfruit. Add hot sauce as you see fit. Rob and I both had similar versions of the The Bill’s Big Dick, aka BBQ jackfruit + Ancho TVP burritos (mine in bowl form, Rob in burrito form).
I figured we would be Ancho’ed out but later that afternoon, Rob was whipping up Ancho lentils! Destined to be a Rob’s Repeater Recipe, because it was so easy and SO GOOD. This recipe didn’t make PPK’s Top 100 list for nothing! Spicy, but not too spicy, and a bit sweet, these lentils were so flavourful. We went really low-key after such a lunch-fest, stuffing Romaine leaves with the filling and topping them with thick slabs of avocado. Rob doesn’t like collard wraps as much as me, but he gave the Romaine boats two thumbs up. Romaine is definitely sweeter than the darker leafy greens and the inner part of the leaf makes it easy to scoop up a beany filling.
Am I behind the times? Have you made these lentils already? If only Rob didn’t finish off the last of our green lentils with this batch.
How do you like green wraps? What’s your favourite? I like collards because they are bigger and easier to make transportable wraps but I was really digging the lettuce this time around.
Another batch of lost photos. Although the “lost” photos from that previous post were found (!!), months after I repeated the recipe (HA!).
This time, I am not sure where the photos went, but I have an ample substitute.
Pardon my faux pas.
One of my favourite vegetables this winter (if you could not guess) were Brussels sprouts.
Recently had a hankering for a creamy, balsamic dressing. Something tangy, something sweet but creamy, too. Then I remembered I had already made such a thing: Tess’ Miso Healthy Dressing. When I went looking for my photos of my creamy balsamic miso dressing, I looked at my notes from the recipe: tossed with brown rice, roasted Brussels sprouts and white beans. No photos to be found, but I did find photos of another creamy dressing with roasted Brussels sprouts. (Yes, there were lots of roasted Brussels sprouts around here).
Brown rice and white beans are left to your imagination. However, I included them in my recipe because that’s how you assemble a meal.
In any case, do not limit this dressing to roasted Brussels sprouts. With the change in seasons, make it more spring-friendly. Take your favourite leafy green, add some chopped veggies, chickpeas or quinoa, and smother it in the dressing. Or grab yourself some Brussels sprouts and get thee roasting.
Today is a sad day.
I retired my food processor.
It was older than me, Cuisinart Robot Coupe circa 1970s. A hand-me-down from my parents, to my brother and finally to me. You see, I had to wait for my brother to get married and receive a fancy brand new one. My kitchen changed completely once I finally grabbed hold of it, though. Homemade energy bars galore. Turned out I was the one laughing (until now), since this old processor was the best. It was a work-horse. Easy to clean. Loved more than the newer models. I learned a lot with it, such as:
1. Chop your bananas before you freeze them.
That was how I broke off both clips on the side of the bowl. Huge chunks of frozen bananas jumped around the bowl and snapped it off, literally.
Have no fear, that was nothing I couldn’t solve by holding it in place myself.
2. Do not overflow your food processor with fluids.
This was courtesy of Rob’s lesson. The overflowing liquid can make its way inside your food processor and get it to stop working.
Thank goodness my Dad knows how to open up a food processor and clean up the insides.
3. Cook your chickpeas.
This is another lesson from Rob. Processing soaked chickpeas (but not yet cooked chickpeas) broke his food processor (he only had it for a week) but this beast plowed through it.
4. Don’t give away extra bowls for your circa 1970s food processor.
Lesson courtesy of my Mom. Right before I had my first crack in my bowl, my Mom told me she had just given away/thrown out the extra food processor bowl she had been holding onto for the last 4 decades.
5. Crazy glue only works temporarily.
The final straw for my food processor was when the little tip broke off. My Dad crazy glued it back in place, at my insistence. He was worried the whole thing would be glued shut. I proved him wrong. It still stuck together and moved! The problem, though: it snapped off again (while making The Great Vegetable Bolognese Sauce).
While I can manually stick that teeny piece back in its place, instead I decided to retire my food processor. *sigh* It is for my own safety.
I still remember the first time I tried the amazing 1-ingredient banana ice cream. Gena titled her post: “Banana Soft Serve: This Post Will Change Your Life”. And it was miraculous. However, without a food processor, it cannot be done. Something about the air whipping/melting the banana into a creamy soft pudding. As much as I love my Vitamix, blenders can’t do it. Creamy smooth smoothies, yes, but simple ice cream? No.
Super simple, I rarely make it more complicated than a frozen banana. I have paired it with raw banana maca pancakes and stewed vanilla-scented peaches and blueberries. For a chocolatey treat, adding chocolate protein powder is a great recovery snack.
For its ultimate farewell, I teamed the banana soft-serve with another oldie-but goodie: overnight oats with chia seeds. I’ve shared versions with chocolate & cherries, avocado and gingerbread pumpkin, but this one was a classic vanilla-cinnamon combination.
Combined together, it is a glorious breakfast. And if it wasn’t so much of a fuss to clean the food processor, I’d gladly eat this every day.
I feel kind of bad since it is the bowl that needs replacing and not the motor unit. Sadly, Cuisinart does not sell replacement bowls any longer. I think my Mom tracked down a seller in San Francisco. The commute might kill the value.
What do you think? Time to give it the farewell party? How old is your food processor?
Being known as a healthy eater has its drawbacks.
My meals have now become suspicious. Suspicious for healthy ingredients. What have I hidden in the meal this time?
Trust me, I cater to my audience. If baking for myself, I’d easily experiment with squash carob brownies, cauliflower chocolate cake, chocolate chip chickpea blondies or chocolate mint black bean cookies. I have even gambled with (oh so good) chocolate tofu mousse pie with my family for Easter.
But for the harshest critics, I go all out.
Thus when Rob’s family came over for a birthday celebration and I offered to supply dessert, I had to determine my plan of attack.
Almost Guiltless Chocolate Mousse Pie? I knew it was a winner, but I had no tofu.
Rob suggested my Carrot Cake Cupcakes since he really liked them, but I thought they might be a bit “out there”. Carrots for a birthday dessert? (Only mine..)
Experiment with a new recipe? I considered Terry’s Italian Cashewcotta Cheesecake or Ethiopian Chocolate Flourless Torte, but still had the issue of missing ingredients.
Then I worked backwards. What do I have in my pantry? Coconut oil, nuts and cocoa powder. Cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds. Sounded delicious already. I peered around the corner of the cabinet and pulled out hazelnut butter. Eureka! A raw chocolate hazelnut cheesecake.
I like raw desserts because I can sample the batter and can easily gauge how it will turn out. Licking the batter from the blender, I knew this was going to be good. The next afternoon, I brought out the cheesecake to thaw. I cut a piece before everyone arrived. You know, for blogging photography purposes. But I sliced off a tiny sliver so I could do some tasting research, too.
I know I said my last raw cheesecake was utterly sinful, but how can a key lime pie compete with a chocolate cheesecake? A chocolate hazelnut cheesecake? It can’t. This my friends, was pure cocoa bliss.
Better than Nutella filling in a cheesecake form, on a cocoa-hazelnut-date crust. Decadent but not too rich and not too sweet. Perfect.
Trust me, I was very confident with this dessert.
Before I served it, I was pummeled with questions, though. “What IS this?” I was asked. Ingredients or the name of the dish? Ingredients, tell me. Nuts, coconut oil, cocoa powder, agave, dates… Avocados? I hate avocados.. No avocados…
Thank goodness it was a resounding success. Definitely my best dessert yet.
Sing along if you know the words:
I am Cow, hear me moo
I weigh twice as much as you
And I look good on the barbecue
Yogurt, curd, cream cheese and butter’s
Made from liquid from my udders
I am Cow, I am Cow, Hear me moo (moo)
I am Cow, eating grass
Methane gas comes out my ass
And out my muzzle when I belch
Oh, the ozone layer is thinner
From the outcome of my dinner
I am Cow, I am Cow, I’ve got gas
I am Cow, here I stand
Far and wide upon this land
And I am living everywhere
From B.C. to Newfoundland
You can squeeze my teats by hand
I am Cow, I am Cow, I am Cow
I am Cow, I am Cow, I am Cow!
Yes, an oldie but goodie from The Arrogant Worms. If you are unfamiliar with the song, you can listen to it here.
So, what do you think this post will be about? Funny Canadian singers? Cows? Not this time..
I recently went to a talk about the wheat craze from a gastroenterologist’s perspective. Gluten-free has become a hot topic recently, but what does it all mean? What is the evidence for removing gluten from your diet? If you have celiac disease, removing gluten is very important. Then there are those who are “gluten-sensitive”, who also feel better after they remove gluten from their diet.
People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a functional bowel disorder, have difficulties with digestion. After ruling out other causes (you know, like parasites, celiac, etc), no anatomical cause can be found for their GI symptoms. In fact, the symptoms for IBS are so commonplace (bloating, abdominal pain, cramping, gas, diarrhea/constipation, mucus in the stool), almost everyone could think they have IBS. Oftentimes, IBS is not entirely related to GI choices: it is intertwined with stress and anxiety, and even panic attacks. However, it can also be related to medications, food choices and intestinal bacterial overgrowth.
Food choices, eh? What piqued my curiosity was the FODMAPS diet devised by those at Monash University. I get more interested in these so-called “diets” when there is a scientific rationale along with research to prove its efficacy. They postulated that certain foods produce poorly absorbed carbohydrates that are rapidly fermented causing excessive gas. They named them fermentable oligo-, di-, and mono-saccharides and polyols, aka FODMAPs. Studies have shown this diet to reduce IBS symptoms (the control group also responded very well, too). Some high FODMAP foods (fructans in wheat, onions, garlic and artichokes and galacto-oligosaccharides in legumes) are more likely to affect people, others may be related to quantity consumed and others may not affect you at all. It depends on the individual. The thought is to eliminate all high FODMAPs and then reintroduce them individually to document how they affect you and figure out how to ultimately modify your diet.
Which foods to avoid when starting? The usual culprits are listed: beans/legumes, wheat, milk and dairy, cabbage, alliums (leek, onion, garlic) and dried fruits. Psyllium should be in there, too! Others that surprised me included sugar snap peas, asparagus, artichokes, beets, cauliflower, mushrooms, pumpkin, apples, mango, watermelon, cashews and pistachios. Outside the whole foods world, artificial sweeteners are also a major culprit.
So what are the low FODMAPS foods? What should you choose instead? Tofu or tempeh, oats, rice, quinoa, green beans, bell peppers, carrots, cucumber, tomato, zucchini, bok choy, kale and spinach. For fruits: bananas, oranges, grapes and melons. And your nut/seed selection should be almonds and pumpkin seeds, but not too many. Agave could aggravate your belly but not pure maple syrup. A more comprehensive list can be found here and here. The list is also continually updated as they research more foods (ie, coconut and cocoa may be controversial).
Looking at my typical meals, it would not surprise me that people could experience gas after adopting a whole foods plant-based diet. Even after you have tried all the tricks to reduce flatulence from beans, other veggies (or fruit, or wheat or nuts) could be tipping your intestinal flora into overdrive.
Tummy needing a break? Try this quick stir fry with tofu and baby bok choy. The original recipe was for a cabbage stirfry but I am really enjoying baby bok choy lately (and cabbage is on the gaseous list). I wasn’t sure I could fit more bok choy in, so I only added 1 lb. However, it wilted more than I thought, so feel free to throw more in the skillet. Simmer the bok choy stems in a tomato sauce spiced with nutritional yeast and tamari with a touch of toasted sesame oil (the green onions and garlic should be omitted for those actually following the FODMAPS approach). It adds a touch of Asian flair to otherwise commonplace ingredients. The tofu adds your protein source. Your low-flatulence protein source. Either way, this was a delicious, quick and simple meal.
Any thoughts on gas? Or these gas-reducing strategies? Have you heard or tried the FODMAPS diet?
Thoughts on funny Canadian singers? The Arrogant Worms also have a song called Carrot Juice is Murder.
I have been meaning to write a post about kale for a while.
As 2013 began, I had a few friends inquire how best to eat kale. Be it resolved to eat more kale? It may be many moons later, but there is no better time than to eat more greens than yesterday. Or if you need a greener boost, how about upcoming St Paddy’s Day?
I have talked about vegetable ratings before (Nutrition Action’s winner of the veggies is kale followed by other leafy veggies) but Dr Fuhrman’s ANDI (aggregate nutrient density index) score is probably more widely disseminated. Whole Foods has started to rate its produce by publicizing ANDI scores. While not a perfect system at all, it prioritizes nutrients per caloric cost. I agree with Anthony’s musings on the ANDI scores which suggests this may confuse people. Focus on whole foods, primarily vegetables and legumes with occasional fruits, grains, nuts and seeds. Why battle it out between greens, when one should try to rotate through them all? Kale, yes, but also Swiss chard, spinach and collards. Throw in Romaine lettuce and mixed baby mesclun greens. Go Asian with baby bok choy or another Asian green. Try out chicory to see if you like it more than me.
I had elaborate plans to create a green eating guide, but as I waited, procrastinated, let life happen, others posted great greenery cooking summaries. Lindsay recently posted videos on how to strip and cook kale. I also found this nice guide from Epicurious. I will not reinvent the wheel but I will continue to share my green eats.
As I told my friends, be persistent. You may not like all greenery preparations right away. Instead of a raw kale salad, try kale chips. Add kale to your soups or stir fries, instead. Or
hideblend it into a smoothie or baked good. Slowly integrate them into your diet until you find something you like.
Here is a lengthy list of ideas for numerous greens. Raw, cooked, I’ve got you covered for your greens. Once I started, I just couldn’t keep away any of my favourites. I even limited myself to leafy greens. Cabbage and Brussels sprouts are for another list.
Soups, Stews and Curries:
Stirfries, Skillets and Pastas:
Pizza topping (kale chips!):
As a side:
Inside a wrap with peanut dressing
As a wrap:
Plain Kale Chips (with a video)
The options with greens are endless. I continually find new recipes and new favourites.
Case in point: this Indian-spiced Chickpeas and Kale. Not authentic Indian but authentically good. Cumin, cardamom and ginger augment garam masala to create a quick dish with chickpeas and kale. A touch of tahini adds a hit of creaminess that transcends its small amount. The greens are wilted in a stir fry but fully flavoured and juicy. Paired with chickpeas, this makes a complete meal.
What is your favourite way to eat greens?
Rob is gone this week.
To a work conference.
His dilemma yesterday was whether to go a talk from Al Gore, Tim Berners-Lee (he invented the web browser), or Neil Gaiman (a fantastic author according to Rob). All 3 happening at the same time. Rob had to clue me in on the last two since I have only heard of Al Gore. (In the end, he chose Al Gore’s talk about The Future). Today he is going to try to track down Grumpy Cat. In the flesh. She is here, too.
As I’ve shared before, Rob is the king of hot meals on the weekend. His specialties are tofu scramble, arepas and besan chilla. But this weekend, alone with some tofu and veggies, I pulled them all out for a hot lunch and made myself some scramble.
While it seems like the majority of recipes (even Isa’s) call specifically for extra-firm tofu, this time I opted for Chinese-style soft tofu. Turns out this specific tofu is made so close to where we live, too. I wonder if I can get a walk-in discount?
I’ve used soft tofu in a scramble before and now I prefer it to the extra-firm. Who wants a dry scramble? Who wants to wait for their tofu to be pressed? Not me! I want mine fluffy, flavourful and filled with veggies. This scramble certainly fit the bill: spiced with cumin and curry powder, the assorted vegetables played a roll in the colourful plate. Since Rob was not here to make arepas as a side, I just ate the whole thing. Delicious!
Rob likes to update me on his foodie finds while away: yesterday’s lunch was jicama slaw with captain-crunch-encrusted chicken strips in a bacon waffle cone and a trip to the flagship Whole Foods store. After he sees this, I think he’ll want some of this curried tofu scramble when he returns, though.
Long-term vegans are probably well-versed in their tofu scramble preferences. Do you like firm or soft tofu in your scramble?
If my weakness is beans and greens, Rob’s weakness is beer.
I may hoard and admire my (completely edible) bean collection. Likewise, Rob drinks through his beer collection. I will admit that I know very little about beer, other than I have yet to meet a beer I like. Rob has given up on getting me to sample his beers. I am pretty confident that whatever makes a beer a beer (hops?) is what I don’t like, which cannot be masked by hints of chocolate or lime or whatnot.
When we travelled to Quebec last summer, we made sure we stopped off at a beer store to stock up on beers that are not easily available in Toronto. We found a beer haven closeby, Veux-Tu Une Biere?, that had over 250 different microbrewed beers. Rob picked out beers that tasted like chocolate and raspberry, chocolate and espresso, espresso solo, coriander and orange, lime, pumpkin, juniper berries and orange peel, rye, scotch (yes, scotch beer), cognac (yes, cognac beer) and who knows what else. Without having to worry about customs, we returned with enough beer to last until our move to Houston.
Rob let me pick him one to try. He has non-mainstream tastes. His favourite beer last year was a Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout. Let’s just say my father and brother didn’t appreciate it as much as him. So while at the beer store, I tried to get Rob to buy spruce beer. Turns out you can find that one in Toronto and one of our friends thought it tasted like a forest. A no go. I ended up picking one with a demon on the front. I have classy tastes. (It also said it won a beer award). Turns out my choice was a winner (except I can’t remember what it was). Too bad Rob only bought one. He bought two of the other beers. However, not all beers were as fabulous. Which is lucky for me, because normally Rob says his beers are too good for me to use in the kitchen. They say you shouldn’t cook with a wine you won’t drink, but this is what you do with beer you don’t like. Any beer will do because you cannot taste it.
I cook with wine but don’t cook with beer because I am afraid of that “beer” taste lingering. I bookmarked this highly-praised recipe for beer-soaked fries but it wasn’t until Ellen tried it and reassured me: a) the fries were fantastic “Not sure what the beer does for the outside of the fries, but there is some marvelous alchemy going on…”, and b) you could not taste the beer, did we venture to try our hands at beer-soaked fries. Rob picked out one of his not-so-fabulous beers (a lime pale lager) and whipped up these fabulous fries.
I am not joking. These were resto-quality, crispy (baked) fries. We used a mix of white and sweet potato but I was partial to the sweet potato fries. All you do is marinade the fries for 15 minutes in the beer, then toss with garlic, oil, salt and pepper, and wait a painful 30-45 minutes as they bake. Next time, I may throw other spices on it like I have done before.
Apparently you can reheat the leftovers. I will admit, there was nothing left over. Demolished. All of it. Now to find more yucky beers.
Do you cook or bake with beer? Or just drink it?
Savoury beer uses, here and elsewhere:
Beer-Baked White Beans at The Bitten Word
Beer-Stewed Pinto Beans (Frijoles Borrachos) by Nava Atlas
Beer Hummus at Sprint 2 the Table
Smoky Chipotle Vegetarian (Beer) Chili with Parmesan-Black Pepper Beer Bread at Joanne Eats Well With Others
Seitan Goulash with Kraut over Parsleyed Noodles from American Vegan Kitchen
Tempeh Sauerkraut Brew Stew from Vegan Appetite
Vegan Chocolate Guinness Cake from Keep It Simple Foods
I am loving the conversations from the last post about the evidence surrounding eating a Mediterranean diet. The New York Times wrote a follow-up article that summarizes my feelings pretty closely: there is a surprising lack of evidence for nutritional recommendations. While in medical school, I remember being taught that the only thing shown to keep weight loss on long-term was bariatric surgery. Perhaps that is because the proper studies have not be done. To be fair, I learned the DASH diet with was better than any single medication to reduce high blood pressure. Hopefully, the flurry of interest from this past study will propel researchers to investigate plant-based whole foods eats. The New York Times suggested a vegan diet is not a long-term option, but I disagree.
Onwards with another Mediterranean meal? Vegan AND delicious?
I love it when I know it is going to be a good week. By Sunday, after I do my batch cooking and a bit of taste testing, I have a good idea how my meals will be for the week. Flops or wins? I never seem to know with these Random Recipes.
This one was a big win!
Dom pushed us to randomly pick a recipe from our (physical) recipe pile. I still like to print out my recipes for the week and sometimes throw in bonus recipes if there is empty space on my page. While cleaning the kitchen table, I decided to tackle one of my recent but neglected clipped out recipes.
Sometimes I am blown away by the simplicity of good food. I wasn’t expecting this to taste so good as it did, so I was pleased to have such great tasting lunches all week.
This recipe was for a ribollita, an Italian peasant soup featuring vegetable soup with day-old bread. Most versions use leftover vegetable soup, but here we create a complex soup simply from roasted vegetables. Roasted fennel was new to me, but I really liked the medley from roasted red peppers, zucchinis, carrots, mushrooms and onions. White beans add bulk and the giant corona white beans were a perfect match to the chunky vegetables. Sliced cabbage added an almost noodle-like feel with some structure to the vegetable soup. I added both tomato paste and red pepper paste to the broth simply because I was too lazy to open a new can of tomato paste. I really liked the deep flavours from both pastes, but feel free to use only tomato paste if that is what you have on hand. I omitted the bread completely, so I doubt this is still a ribollita proper, but it sounds like a wonderful addition for this hearty soup.
Which soups are warming your belly this winter?
Did you catch the news about the Mediterranean diet preventing heart disease? I won’t rehash the study, but it compared a Mediterranean diet (either with supplemental olive oil or nuts) with a supposedly “low-fat” diet (which was not low-fat due to poor adherence) in over 7000 people at high risk for heart disease. In short, the study intervention (in addition to medication) was to eat high levels of vegetables, fruits, nuts (almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts), legumes, fish, and olive oil.
The full dietary recommendations are listed in their appendix here: a) lots of olive oil (at least 4 tbsp if in the olive oil arm of the study), b) at least 2 daily servings of vegetables, c) at least 2 daily servings of fruits, d) at least 3 weekly servings of legumes, e) at least 3 weekly servings of fish, f) at least 1 weekly servings of nuts or seeds (at least an oz of nuts a day if in the nuts arm of the study), g) white meat only, h) olive oil-simmered tomato-onion-garlic sauce at least 2 times a week. Raw and unsalted nuts, eggs, fish, seafood, low-fat cheese, dark chocolate (with at least 50% cocoa) and whole grain cereals were encouraged. A switch to red wine as a primary source of alcohol was encouraged in people who normally consumed alcohol. Other sweets, pastries, red meat, fatty cheese, cream, butter, potato chips, and French fries were discouraged. Their suggested recipes are posted online, however in Spanish.
Turns out there was a benefit in reduced myocardial infarctions, strokes and deaths in both arms of the study group compared to the controls. So much so (a whopping 30% reduction) that they stopped the study earlier than anticipated due to a reduction in heart disease. It would be unethical to allow people to continue with the control diet when the intervention was so much better. Not that all heart disease was eliminated entirely, it was reduced. Most remarkably, the dietary changes improved outcomes in addition to their medications.
Sounds like a radical diet? Cut out the crap and eat the good food?
Sometimes I feel like most of the benefits from so-called diets, whether it be plant-based vegan, Paleo or the Mediterranean diet, are mostly from removing the processed foods and replacing them with wholesome whole foods. Start cooking your food at home. As both the oil and nut arms of the study improved outcomes, it is difficult to pinpoint the important parts of the diet. That’s the hard part of nutrition research. Do you need fish (unlikely) or the omega 3 fatty acids? Do you need to drink red wine? Which fats are important? Interestingly enough, despite improved heart health, no one lost weight on this diet.
Following a plant-based whole foods approach is what makes most sense to me. As mentioned in the New York Times article, others support a no-oil vegan diet for reducing heart disease. Instead of oil, fat comes from nuts and avocados. I don’t plan on changing my focus (BEANS and GREENS!) but for some reason I seem to have a hankering for more Mediterranean-inspired meals recently. I may go find myself some olives, too.
Ever since I really enjoyed my Spanish Chickpeas and Spinach with Roasted Garlic, and munching on my very freezer-friendly Greek Stewed Swiss Chard with Tomatoes, Mint and Lima Beans, I have been on the look-out for more ways to cook down my greens in a skillet.
Enter this super easy Greek chickpea and spinach skillet with lemon and dill. It looks deceivingly simple. It does not deceive you: it is simple. It deceives you because it tastes a lot better than you might think. You can taste each component of the meal and the lemony-dill aspect complements the nutty chickpeas and silky spinach. The chickpeas ended up creamy, too, with the brief cooking in the pan…. and the spinach, well, its wilts away, allowing you to eat a lot more greens than you may have thought possible.
Any thoughts on the diet du jour? Any recommended Mediterranean recipes?
Need more Mediterranean inspiration?
I should probably call this “My Favourite Vegan Lip Balms”. This isn’t an exhaustive review of all vegan balms, but I definitely feel like I have some winners I wanted to share. With this cold weather, I have been evaluating my lip balm stash.
As I investigated vegan beauty products while making my bathbomb cupcakes, I became interested in vegan lip balms. A recovering long-time lip balm lover, I thought about making my own. Then I reasoned there are such great products out there, why experiment with expensive ingredients when others have already made the perfect formulation? So I broadened my lip balm search beyond my long-time favourites.
First of all, why bother with vegan balms? As something you place on your lips, you are bound to ingest it, too. 7 lbs worth according to Dr. Oz. When you look at it that way, maybe all those chemicals aren’t the best option.
What makes balms NOT vegan? PETA has a good list of animals ingredients, but the worse culprits are lanolin (sheep oil), tallow (beef fat), and casein (milk protein). Honey and beeswax are controversial topics for vegans. I don’t eat honey because it is a high-glycemic sweetener but less antsy about using beeswax. However, in my research, I found I preferred the balms without beeswax. And the more I looked at the ingredient lists of my balms, I thought the same methodology I employed for my cooking (unprocessed whole foods) would be better than balms filled with wacky ingredients as preservatives and dyes.
Without further ado, here are my favourite vegan lip balms (pics courtesy of originating websites).
1. Orange Thyme
Rachel makes possibly my favourite lips balms. They are homemade in small batches with natural ingredients. The balms literally melt into your lips and moisturize them for hours. I love these. She has a wide variety of flavours but so far my favourites are pomegranate chocolate, marshmallow hot cocoa and Meyer lemon cupcake (yes it smells like a cupcake). As a small, independent retailer, my only problem was receiving a balm that had melted into the cap, likely knocked over during productive, which was not replaced. Quality control beforehand would make this a fool-proof item.
Ingredients: avocado oil, cocoa butter, candelilla wax, shea butter, natural and essential oils.
Raw and vegan lip balms. I picked up my first Hurraw balm at the Veg Fest after a stranger whispered they were the best balms ever. I agree, I love these. Luscious and moisturizing. A bit firmer than Orange Thyme balms, but long-lasting. I only put them as #2 since they cost more and difficult to find in Canada. My favourite flavour (so far) is the Moon Balm (extra thick with vanilla and undertones of chamomile).
Ingredients (Moon Balm): Persea gratissima (avocado) oil, Prunus amygdalus dulcis (sweet almond) oil, Euphorbia cerifera (candelilla) wax, Theobroma cacao (cocoa) seed butter, Cocos nucifera (coconut) oil, Ricinus communis (castor) seed oil, Olea europaea (olive) fruit oil, Argania spinosa (argan) kernel oil, Rosa rubiginosa (rosehip) seed oil, Limnanthes alba (meadowfoam) seed oil, Tocopherols (vitamin e), Vanilla planifolia (vanilla) bean, Myroxylon balsamum (peru balsam) oil, Matricaria recutita (blue chamomile) flower extract
3. C.O. Bigelow (from Bath & Body Works)
While not all my (previous) favourite balms are vegan (the Lemon Balm has beeswax but still awesome), others are vegan like the mentha lip shine and the mentha ultra lip shine. I don’t always like all the goop, but these tend to be very smooth and moisturizing without being tacky. I find I go through them pretty fast, though, which sucks because they can be pricy. Check to see if each balm is vegan, YMMV.
Ingredients (Mentha Lip Shine): Polybutene, Petrolatum, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Oil, Menthyl Lactate, Octyldodecanol, Quaternium-18 Hectorite, Saccharin Propylene Carbonate.
4. Crazy Rumors
Another all-vegan line-up of lip balms. They are a bit more solid than the other balms but slide on smooth. They have lots of flavours (which don’t particularly enthuse me) but some flavours are more mellow like peppermint twist.
Ingredients (peppermint twist): Certified Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Macadamia Seed Oil, Certified Organic Shea Butter, Candelilla Wax, Soy Wax, Jojoba Oil, Carnauba Wax, Natural & Organic Flavors and/or Pure Essential Oils, Vitamin E, Rosemary Leaf Extract, Natural Stevia
5. Bare English
A brand new entry into the vegan lip balm market, Bare English is local to boot. Meshell has a great review here. These balms are tea-infused and glide on smooth, but firmer than my favourites. I don’t find they last as long as my favourites, either. The best part (other than this being a Toronto company) is that they are reasonably priced and definitely easier to find in Toronto (also in NYC) and they will ship for free anywhere in Canada. They only have 3 flavours for now: coco-mint, vanilla coconut and raspberry pear.
Ingredients (coco-mint): Candelilla wax, cocoa Seed butter, Peppermint leaf infused olive oil, castor seed oil, coconut oil, shea butter, mint flavour oil, sweet almond oil, jojoba seed oil, vitamin E
6. Aqua Blossom
Another etsy shop with nice vegan balms. Again, all-natural, homemade in small batches, Ashley doesn’t make balms, though, she makes butters. They are very luscious, thick and glossy. I thought they would last longer but they seem to get absorbed fairly quickly. I am loving the vanilla mint and pumpkin cheesecake butters, though.
Ingredients: Shea butter, sweet almond oil, apricot kernel oil, avocado oil, candelilla wax, coconut oil, kokum butter, soybean oil, essential and/or lip-safe fragrance (flavor) oil, vitamin e oil
Do you have a favourite lip balm? Is it vegan? Have you tried these balms yet?
Here are some others that I have been meaning to try:
Meow Meow Tweet Vegan Balms
None of Your Beeswax Lip Balm or Ultrabalm from Lush
Vegan Balms by Merry Hempsters
Peppermint Chocolate Balm from Canfield Crafts
Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Lip Balms
Long Winter Farm (all natural but contains beeswax)
Little Batch (all natural but contains beeswax)
Petite Threla (all natural but contains beeswax)
Country Blossom (all natural but contains beeswax)
La Curacio Lip Balm from La Bella Figura (all natural but contains beeswax)
This is my submission to this week’s Healthy Vegan Fridays.
I am loving your enthusiasm for ChefTap. Turns out I am a week early harping its awesomeness. It isn’t a new app. In fact it has been out for over 2 years. Kate, one of its developers (and such a sweetie), told me they will be releasing their newest version in a week which promises to be smoother and faster with a new facelift, so definitely stay tuned.
For those of you still in a deep winter freeze, I hear your plight.
The winter blahs. When you are already tired of the root veggies and dreaming of what it would be like in a warmer climate. Thinking any excuse to head to Texas seems like a good idea. Except I should be studying instead of travelling. There is no excuse to stop cooking, though. What better way to merry my longing for the tropics than to bring it back into my kitchen? Here is a recipe from Belize.
With a new-found craving for pesto, I was excited about trying this non-traditional pesto filled with toasted cashews, cilantro and a hefty dose of garlic. I brought it to a recent gathering and was thrilled that I decided to make a double batch of the pesto. A first lick of the pesto had me swooning. I first served it smeared into a quinoa and kale salad topped with toasted coconut. The zest of the pesto was lost as it was diluted in the salad but the main flavours were present. Less bold, more tame. More for the masses. Adding dollops of even more pesto to the salad helped highly the pesto’s prowess. Later in the week, I added the pesto to zucchini noodles along with some white beans for a delicious tropical spin on alternative spaghetti.
Have a favourite pesto? Here are other ones I have enjoyed:
(Take note, Rob does not approve of said term. He prefers Android users. How boring.)
Since forever, I have been trying to find the perfect way to store my bookmarked recipes.
I have progressed from storing them in emails, then to pinterest and pocket. (I know others use Evernote). I use Eat Your Books primarily for my cookbook collections. Although I can upload other recipes, too, I prefer to have the directions along with the recipe list.
A lot of people have a hard time understanding pinterest. What is it for? How does it work? I try to explain it is a picturesque way to bookmark links. Pictures with links. It is used to inspire. My biggest pet peeve is the lack of searchability, which limits its use as a workable list of recipes. I can’t search for all the recipes with mango instance. Furthermore, it only links to a website which can later be modified or even vanish. Hence my migration to pocket, which I mainly use as an offline web reader now. Because you can’t search that one either.
I recently discovered a crazy wonderful app that I had to share: ChefTap. (Android only for now)
Designed specifically to store recipes, it does its job.
From the website: ChefTap is the only app on the market that uses an advanced artificial intelligence engine specifically designed to find recipes on any English language web page.
It stores recipes offline, completely searchable, so you always have access to them. It will pick out the recipe, picture, title, etc from any website, even if the recipe is buried under lots of text (like most blog posts). It will sync with epicurious, allrecipes, or your other favourite recipe sites. However, I was in awe that it could export all the recipes from pinterest. Plug in an album and it will crawl all your links and add them to the app. You can’t even export your pins any other way, as far as I know. How awesome is that?
So, I have just begun to use the app (you can change it so it won’t go to sleep on you while cooking, wahoo!) and I would say the miss rate is around 10% for picking up the wrong title, etc. It is easy to fix things, though, as it has alternative title suggestions, or move things around like yields and ingredients. Another con is that this is a device-only app, but a complementary web site seems to be in the works.
I started with importing all my pins and will work towards my lengthy email folder filled with recipes. All I need to do is convert the emails into .txt files and they can be easily imported as well. How awesome is that??
I’ll tell you what’s more awesome: This app is free!!
(I bet you thought I was going to say it is only yours for $9.999 or something. I hate that, too! I have yet to be corrupted by commercial influence. Anything I recommend is because I honestly recommend it)
In case you are interested in some of my other favourite apps, here they are:
iAnnotate PDF: For highlighting, marking up pdfs for studying, etc. The Android app is not as smooth at the iPhone one, but the one for Android is free
Any.Do: Great to do app that syncs with google tasks
Songza: I haven’t been that wowed by the music selection, but it isn’t that bad
(I love pandora but I can’t get it in Canada, btw).
What are your favourite apps? How do you store recipes?
(I have been bugging Rob to make me a Taste Space app, but that’s likely never to happen…)
Now for today’s recipe!
I don’t know about you, but I am a big suck when I get sick. My energy gets drained and I usually just want to crawl into bed and sleep. The last thing I want to do is cook. The second to last thing I want to do is photograph said food. The third last thing I want to do is write about said food.
Which is why it has taken me so long to share this fabulous soup. I usually bust it out when I am sick. (And yes, I still get sick. My diet does not make me immune from viruses and the like. A flu shot helps, though).
I first made this soup when I lived alone and it has become a sicky staple ever since. As long as my kitchen is reasonably well stocked, there is nothing easier than a bowl of miso soup.
You can go ultra-simple for a fix of miso soup – all you need is miso, hot water and perhaps some green onions. However, Tess’ recipe goes one step beyond: a Lemon-Ginger Miso Soup. Lemon and ginger are great as a pick-me-up when sick, comforting yet zingy. Best of all, though, this soup literally takes 5 minutes to make. Awesome on any given day, but really fabulous when you are under the weather and can’t stand to wait any longer. Just heat up the soup before it boils so that you still get the benefits from miso (heck I do that with my tea as well because I can’t drink boiling water). I really liked the combination of lemon, ginger and miso.
The recipe serves 2, so if a sweetie is cooking for you, they can enjoy it as well. Or if home alone, you can have it as a delicious breakfast the next day.
My first WIAW (What I Ate Wednesday). Which was actually a Thursday, and posted on a Saturday.
I have never been one to want to document everything I eat in a day, but by the end of Valentine’s Day, Rob had managed to do most of it on my behalf. HA! Not the best photos (thank you to fluorescent lights), but that’s all in the spirit of WIAW. (I have supplemented with some other photos).
Since I knew Rob had plans for dinner, I started off by baking breakfast for Rob: Peanut butter cookie baked oatmeal. Rob gasped at how much it tasted like a peanut butter cookie (without any flour!). Pictured with Rob’s card.
I usually wake up and immediately eat half a grapefruit. Lately I have been drinking some green juice (I make enough to last 3 days or so). This cucumber-beet-ginger juice was delicious. (See recipe below)
A few hours later, when I arrive at work, I eat my steel-cut oats with protein powder. Lately, I have been adding spirulina to it and it makes it an electric green.
For lunch, I had the last of my curry-miso squash and chickpea soup.
Late afternoon, I snacked on an apple.
For dinner, Rob made my African Sweet Potato and Peanut Stew. I like how he scoured my blog for a recipe he knew I would like (I am very predictable that way!). It was one of my favourite dishes in 2010 (such high praise!) and it had obviously been a long time since I’ve had it. He substituted white beans for the kidney beans and served it with red quinoa. He planned for a red-themed meal and solidified it with a sprinkle of smoked paprika. Still as delicious as I remember. Even better (I could taste the love).
For dessert, he surprised me with heart-shaped chocolate hazelnut truffles. Rob thought my recent post was a hint for Valentine’s Day (hahaha, I swear it wasn’t). He spiced things up by using hazelnut butter and made 3 versions: au naturel, some with a whole macadamia nut inside and some with shredded coconut. We obviously had to sample all three (each, of course). I think my favourite was the one with the whole nut. (PS. Yes, this recipe is so easy, Rob made them in under 20 minutes!)
What a keeper, eh?
Do you “celebrate” Valentine’s Day? If so, what did you do?